Maintenance of Your Tulsa Home
Cleaning guru Don Aslett proved years ago that spending a few minutes each day tidying up can reduce time spent on housework by 75 percent. Likewise, if you develop a regular Tulsa household-maintenance routine, not only will you save time and money and limit damage, but reduce stress as well.
Concern over mold and its effects on health has made moisture the great enemy and narrowed the focus of home-maintenance efforts. If left unchecked, moisture not only contributes to mold growth, but typically results in rot and infestations by various kinds of bugs and rodents.
Though some may argue this list is far from complete, the National Association of Home Builders Research Center has pinpointed many ways homeowners can keep moisture at bay.
The list was part of "Durability by Design: A Guide for Residential Builders and Designers," published by the research center. Here are some of the most important ones:
· Inspect/replace caulk every two or three years. Although some high-end caulking compounds are formulated to last 25 years or longer, every situation is different. The caulk in your house might not have been applied during ideal conditions, or applied correctly. Or it might not have been allowed to cure properly before paint was applied.
Or the location of the caulk might be subject to a greater degree of weathering than the manufacturer would consider normal -- a high salt content in the air near the shore, for example, or intense heat.
Hence, the need for regular inspection. Before new caulk is applied, the old caulk should be removed and the surface cleaned thoroughly to create a solid bond with the new caulk.
Check the directions on the tube for proper drying time and whether the caulk is paintable. Some new caulks have ingredients that deter the growth of mildew on the caulk surface.
· Maintain gutters/downspouts. If your previously bone-dry basement develops a water problem, experts say the first place to look is the roof-drainage system.
Clogged gutters and downspouts typically will redirect water to the lowest point in your house, the foundation. The point at which the water finds its way into your basement, even a tiny crack, will grow wider if the source of the moisture is not stanched. Not only might the leak eventually undermine the foundation, but it might encourage mice and other rodents and provide a continuous source of food for mold.
The most obvious reason for homes in Tulsa having clogged gutters and downspouts are leaves, pine needles, dirt and sediment, as well as slow erosion of the asphalt from your shingles. Gutters need to be periodically adjusted, to compensate for settling.
· Adjust sprinklers so they do not water the house. With in-ground lawn-watering systems that are relatively low-maintenance, there is a tendency for sprinklers under pressure to redirect the water where moisture should not go -- foundations or painted surfaces. Have the installer come back to look at your system periodically.
· Repaint every five to seven years. No exterior paint lasts forever, so repainting periodically is important. The wood surface of a house needs to have a solid protective covering to deter moisture and rotting.
To avoid painting at all, many people choose vinyl or aluminum siding to cover their houses. Too often, however, the siding hides water problems that should be corrected first.
You can extend the life of an exterior paint job if you make note of the places that react to the weather more than others. Areas of the house on which the sun shines most of the day may suffer from fading or cracking, and those problems should be addressed regularly.
· Maintain the exterior grade near the foundation. Even when the roof, gutters and downspouts work properly, you need to make sure that water that drains from the roof flows away from the house rather than toward it. A known problem of Tulsa homes.
Too often, homeowners plant trees and shrubs too close to the foundation. Another known problem of Tulsa homes. Continued erosion from heavy rains also can affect the exterior grading.
· High humidity encourages mold growth. If you have a dehumidifier in a damp basement, you defeat its purpose unless you empty the collection tank and clean the filter to make sure the appliance is operating properly.
Inspect/replace HVAC filter monthly; check the system annually. Manufacturers have made filter replacement simple and replacement filters readily available, and still homeowners do not seem to have five minutes every month to do this.
Use exhaust fans. Ever take a long shower on a warm day? Feel the walls of the bathroom when you do. If they are wet, so are all the things you cannot see or touch -- behind the baseboards, the ceiling, the grout lines in the tile.
Stripping Away The Years On Your Tulsa Home
The age of an old Tulsa house usually can be determined by the number of coats of paint and varnish on doors, molding, woodwork, staircases, windows, kitchen cabinets and mantels.
Everyone along the way wanted to make his or her special decorating statement. If you want to get back to the basic wood or the original finish, you're in for lots of work.
Here's a tip for you: It's easier to strip old finish if the piece you are stripping is lying down.
Some professional paint strippers use a water-lye solution in what is called a 'hot-tank' process. It's bad for wood because it loosens glue in the joints, raises and bleaches the wood, turns oak and mahogany black, destroys vital oils and leaves residue on wood that prevents it from taking paint or varnish.
A much more reliable method is using methylene chloride. You saturate the piece, throw plastic over it and let the chemical sit so that it can do its work. Then you remove the old finish.
I don't do much stripping these days, but when I do, I use semi-paste methylene chloride because the chemical doesn't evaporate as quickly, and cleanup is easier.
Blob it on. Once it is there, don't move it around. Let it do its work.
Some Oklahoma professionals use more than one stripping process. In a hot-dip tank method, sodium hydroxide is used instead of water and lye. Solid-pine doors, with or without hardware, and molding over 12 feet long can be stripped in the tank.
A good professional doesn't just dump the piece in the stripping plant and let it go. "The trick to a good job is keeping an eye on the piece and taking it out at the right moment. Sometimes it raises the grain, but it doesn't matter if you are going to paint."
In the other process, 80 jets spray diluted sodium hydroxide on pieces under eight feet in length. The residue is rinsed off with a pressure washer, Giamboy said.
The price is usually $50 to $70 for a front door, Giamboy said, depending on size. Interior doors cost less.
Glassmire often uses a heat gun to remove all but the final coat of paint. ''But because the heat gun can scorch bare wood, I always use the chemical stripper to remove the final coat."
A heat plate that is used to strip wider areas, such as baseboards, is also available.
To ventilate the area where they are working, Glassmire and Rayser use a two-fan system: one to bring the fumes down to the floor and the other to pull them out an open door or window.
Never use chemical stripper on hot, humid or rainy days, Glassmire said. ''Heat turns the paste to water, and it evaporates quickly. And moisture holds the smell of the chemical, since the air is heavier."
And never use stripper near an open flame, such as a gas heater in a basement, Rayser said. Even a spark from a light switch can ignite fumes.
Before he bids on an on-site job, Glassmire makes a test mark on the work. By doing that, he can determine how many layers of paint are present, the kinds of paint involved, and whether varnish is underneath the paint. Varnish prevents paint from soaking into wood, because paint can become embedded and impossible to remove.
"The trick behind a stripping job is timing. You can't be interrupted. When the paint breaks, you have to be there to take it off," Glassmire said.
Rayser does all the woodwork in a 9-by-12-foot room at one time. He soaks the woodwork along the length of the room first and strips it, then does the width. "This cuts down fumes and the amount of work," he said. Also, remove the shoe molding and strip it separately so the chemical won't ruin the floor.
The first couple of layers of paint usually "break" instantly, Rayser said. How fast the rest loosens is determined by the number of coats and the kind of paint:
"Latex and enamel come off in sheets. Lead-based is like bubble gum. You scrape it, and it sticks to the next spot. You have to get it wet and scrape it off."
Rayser uses Scotch-Brite pads to remove the residue, going with the grain.
For detail work, Glassmire and Rayser make their own tools. Glassmire uses a saber-saw blade to chip off the first hard pieces before using chemical stripper.
Rayser uses a nut pick that he fashions into a kind of spoon and scoops the residue out. He also uses a piece of oak, which won't scratch the grain of the wood, and sharpens it like a toothpick. He also cuts down a brush to make the bristles stiffer and firmly but gently remove the old finish from carvings.
Dental tools should be used when the paint is soft or they'll break, Glassmire said. Cabinetmakers' scrapers also work well.
To dispose of the residue, place it on a piece of plywood in a well ventilated area, Glassmire said. It will dry into a hard substance. Then check with local officials to see how you should get rid of it.
If you gouge the wood, use wood filler, Glassmire said. If it is just a nick, use a wax stick, he added.
When using wood filler, put masking tape around the gouge in the wood. Fill the gouge high because the filler tends to shrink, and give it time to dry. With a fine metal file or an orbital sander, sand the filler to the surface. As you sand, try to break the barrier between the filler and the tape so you blend the gouged area into the wood.
What About Those Cracks In Your Tulsa Home Wall?
Plaster is both a blessing and a curse. It can be a blessing because in many cases it represents a level of craftsmanship that is either rare or nonexistent these days. However, plaster is often a curse because it tends to react unfavorably to stress and age, and the supply of people who can repair it, despite efforts of the building trades to reverse the trend, has dwindled.
The shortage is greatest in areas where new housing is dominant, since drywall is the plaster substitute for today's builders. Yet, there are many houses with plaster walls, and real estate agents must have some knowledge of them when explaining all those cracks to their buyers.
While some owners of new houses like the look of plaster, most of the work done these days involves restoration.
Some of the plaster is fancy stuff. Instead of wood, plaster was used to make cornices in older houses.
Plaster cornices are also known as "run plaster," because a template of the profile is pushed or "run" across a glob of plaster to create them. A drawing of a cornice to be reproduced is typically made on site, and the profile is transferred to a piece of sheet metal to make the template. The template is mounted to a wooden tool called a "horse," which is designed so that an edge hangs over the side of an aluminum channel or a marble table to give the template stability for the run.
A batch of plaster is poured on strips of starched cheesecloth that strengthen the cornice. The template is run along the plaster, and the cornice begins to form. Several batches of plaster and several runs later, the cornice is completed and left to dry, usually for two or three days.
Often, smaller runs of cornice, called "sinkage" ornaments, are attached or "sunk" with plaster into the larger cornices to create a more ornate look. Cornices, some of which weigh 50 pounds or more, are attached to a wall with adhesive and fasteners resembling drywall screws. What can make installation tough is that little in an old house is square, so cutting and fitting a piece of cornice can be tricky.
The primary problem is failing plaster, usually caused by problems with the material underneath. In one place the plaster can be on top of brick, and on wood lath adjacent to the brick. Masonry expands and contracts differently than wood, and as each shifts, cracks appear in the plaster. Plaster was pushed between the pieces of wood lath for added strength, and to help the top coats adhere better. That plaster, too, deteriorates over time, especially when moisture finds its way into walls and ceilings.
Nails holding the old Tulsa home lath to the framing loosen over time, and the weight of the plaster on the weakened lath causes sagging. You can use metal plaster washers to reinforce plaster, unless it is so bad it has to be replaced. The washers, available for a few cents each at many hardware stores, are about as big as a man's thumbnail, have a hole in the center, and are perforated on the edges to hold a coat of plaster or drywall compound that also can be used.
Hold the washer to plaster and carefully drive the screw through the hole and into the ceiling or wall. If you are lucky, when it catches the loose lath, it will also make it into the framing and re-support everything.
For new plaster work, plasters use metal lath, which comes in sheets instead of strips and is nailed to the framing.
The traditional first coat also is called a "brown" coat. It is a coarse, perlited gypsum also known as Structolite. This is applied underneath the finish coat, adding Portland cement to the mix to increase hardness and making certain the coat, actually several coats, are absolutely level.
Everything on top depends on the strength and surface condition and how well the brown coat can ride out expansion and contraction of it and every other material.
The finish coat contains bonding agents that act as an adhesive.
Then there are hairline cracks. Some people take joint compound and cover them, which does not work in the long term. Watch a crack to see if it gets worse, which may be evidence of a serious structural problem. If it does not, then open up the crack, clean it out, dampen it, and fill it several times until the final cured layer is even with the surface. Cover the filled crack with a piece of self-adhering fiberglass tape cut to fit, and then use drywall compound to finish it. You will then have a perfect Tulsa home.